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University launches Q Step programme

The University of Exeter is launching a pivotal new programme designed to improve quantitative social science training. Staff, students and key stakeholders have been invited to celebrate the launch of the Q-Step Centre on Thursday 20 March.

The programme is part of a nationwide scheme, the Q-Step initiative seeks to address the critical shortage of social scientists with the quantitative skills needed to evaluate evidence and analyse data.

The University of Exeter’s Q-Step Centre seeks to increase the number of undergraduates undertaking quantitative methods training in social science degree programmes, deliver appropriate training that is innovative and challenging, enhance employability through practical experience and prepare students for further research training.  Building on the core disciplines of Sociology, Criminology, Politics and International Relations, the Q-Step Centre will bring together a range of activities related to training and curriculum development in quantitative methods and recruits new expertise for the delivery of undergraduate programmes focused to equip students with quantitative literacy and applied data analysis skills.

Deputy Vice Chancellor for External Affairs, Professor Mark Goodwin explained:“Most students in Politics and Sociology and other similar social sciences might shy away from numbers. But in today’s world of easily accessible data, driven by the Internet and social media, social science students with high-level quantitative skills are increasingly in demand.  Employers from across all sectors, including academia, government, charities and business, are looking for graduates who have the skills to analyse and evaluate different kinds of social and economic data.”

He added:“The funding gives the University of Exeter a terrific opportunity to take advantage of the emergence of new sources of data, innovate in teaching of social science methods and deliver a rigorous and challenging curriculum to our students. Q-Step strategically responds to the University’s aim on work-prepared students by ensuring they will gain the skills and experience to secure fulfilling employment. Exeter Q-Centre responds to this priority by including guaranteed work placements on Q-Step degree programmes with a bursary of up to £2,000.”

As part of the Q-Step launch, economist, journalist and broadcaster Tim Harford will be give a public lecture in the XFI Henderson Lecture Theatre, at the Business School at 6pm. He is the author of “The Undercover Economist Strikes Back” and “The Undercover Economist”, a senior columnist at the Financial Times, and the presenter of Radio 4′s “More or Less” and “Pop Up Ideas”.

Head of Politics, Professor Susan Banducci said:“We are particularly pleased that Tim Harford will be here to help launch the Q-Step Centre. He writes about the need to train people to make evidence based decisions, and sometimes quite quickly, on the basis of real time evidence. That real time evidence is a lot of the time based on quantitative data. This is exactly what we hope to achieve with the Q-Step Centre.”

Q-Step was developed as a strategic response to the shortage of quantitatively-skilled social science graduates. It is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). There are 14 other universities involved in the £19.5 million programme designed to promote a step-change in quantitative social science training.

Date: 19 March 2014

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